If you enjoy using the gas pedal in your vehicle as much as we do, well, you probably rely on your brakes quite a bit too. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s crucial to keep those brakes operational—otherwise, you might end up losing your brakes in rush hour traffic as Elizabeth Jordan did in this ABC News article. OK, Jordan’s 1994 Chevy Blazer malfunctioned as it burned through the brakes, but regardless, you need stopping power when you’re on the road. So let’s brake it down. Here’s everything you needed to know about how your brakes work.
Do You Have Drums or Discs (Or Both)?
There are two types of brakes out there on the market: drum brakes and disc brakes. These types of brakes vary in how they work, how expensive they are to replace, and how well they perform. Disc brakes only cover a portion of the rotor, yet they perform better than drum brakes. Disc brakes respond better than drum brakes, they’re more efficient at braking, and they’re less likely to fail. And, for these reasons, disc brakes are more expensive than drum brakes.
A lot of cars actually have both types of brakes. Often, you’ll find disc brakes in the front of the car and drum brakes on the rear two wheels of the vehicle. Why? Well, when you’re braking, your vehicle’s weight shifts forward, thanks to Newton (or inertia, rather). Thus, your front brakes require more braking power than your rear brakes. So, manufacturers often place more powerful, more reliable, more expensive brakes in the front of a vehicle where they’re needed most. The rear tires, on the other hand, might just be drum brakes. They’re cheaper and easier to install.
Get Preventative Maintenance
Like every other moving component of your vehicle, your brakes require maintenance. Be sure to have your master cylinder, brake lines, calipers, pads, and rotors checked regularly. Your master cylinder converts power applied to the brake pedal to hydraulic power which works through the brake lines. Brake lines should have clean fluid, and they shouldn’t leak—a leak can result in a loss of braking power. Your brake lines compress the calipers of your brakes, which apply pressure to the pads of your brakes, which slow the wheel by compressing against the rotors. You’ll need to have working calipers, brake pads with a working pad surface, and rotors that aren’t warped or worn. Speaking of wearing out your rotors, be cautious not to “ride your brakes” too much as you’re out there on the road. Here’s why…
Don’t Ride the Brakes
Let’s say you’ve just taken your vehicle up to the top of Trail Ridge Pass, and now you’re peeling through the canyon. With such a long, inclined road, it’s likely that you’ll have to use the brakes around every turn. However, you should take caution not to burn through your brakes. If you constantly have your foot on the brake pedal, you can overheat your brakes to the point that you’ll damage both the pads and the rotors. You may even warp your rotors at high temperatures. Instead of simply braking, you can use your engine alongside your brakes to slow and control your vehicle. Try shifting into a lower gear in order to have your engine absorb some of the speed from the road. Be mindful that your RPMs will increase as you shift down, so be cautious to keep your engine from overheating, as well as your brakes. If you’re concerned that either component is on the verge of overheating, simply slow down and pull over to safety. Give your car 15 to 30 minutes to cool, and you should be good to get on the road for a few more turns.
How to Tell When You Have a Brake Problem
You never want to lose braking power. If you notice any loss in braking power, you’ve got a problem, and it’s likely that the problem will only get worse. You may, for instance, have a master cylinder that’s leaking. In this case, you’ll slowly lose the power to all of your brakes. The same is true if you have a leaky brake line.
Now, a loss of braking power isn’t the only problem you may come across. If you warp your rotors, as we just mentioned, you could be driving a vehicle that shudders as you brake. It’s best to avoid warped rotors altogether, since you’ll have to replace the entire component (which can cost up to $900 for the vehicle). Instead, be sure to get regular maintenance for your brakes, including brake pad replacement and rotor resurfacing (which can cost about $100 to $200). Also, be sure to have your brake fluid flushed out regularly. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing brake fluid every 20,000 miles to 25,000 miles, or when the fluid is dirty.
Finally, you might also hear a brake problem. If your brakes are squeaking or grinding as you pull up to a stop sign, it may be an indication that your brake pads are on their last leg. Get brake pad replacements right away to ensure that you don’t cause further damage to the rotor. Remember, brake pads are designed to apply braking pressure directly to the rotor. Your calipers, however, are not designed to press against your rotors.
Here at Avalon, we’re here to ensure that your car has as much stopping power as it does starting power. If you need any brake services, bring your car on into the shop. Our team of expert mechanics work with a variety of German-manufactured autos, including Audi®, BMW®, Volkswagen®, Porsche®, and Mini® models. We can repair, maintain, or replace any brake components that need work. If you’re ready to get started, don’t hesitate to schedule service with us right here online. You can also see a full list of our maintenance and repair services, so that you can schedule all of your auto work in one fell swoop.